We're Going Cow Dipping
December 3, 2003
We're going cow dipping this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.
Hello, I'm Steven Knoche Kite.
For more than seventy years Oklahoma farmers waged a war against the dreaded Texas Fever. It was known for decades that cattle, moving from Texas through Oklahoma on their way to market, brought with them disease and death. For some reason cattle coming from Texas spread the Texas Fever with them wherever they traveled. The sickness, much like the flu for humans, often led to the death of the infected animal. For years farmers and ranchers speculated on the actual cause of Texas Fever, but it was in 1889 that the sickness was found to be carried by ticks.
Texas Fever carrying ticks eventually made their way into Oklahoma, and cattle herds across entire sections of the state became infected with the illness. The state board of agriculture began a line of quarantine in 1907 making it illegal for various areas of the state to ship out cattle. In 1907, 61 of the 76 counties then in existence were placed under the quarantine. The method employed to battle this infection became the "dipping vat." These vats were basically large trench-like swimming pools filled with various amounts of chemicals and pesticides. In a single file cattle entered the vat and swam through the poison thereby ridding themselves of the disease carrying ticks. The problem was, however, that the chemicals in the dipping vat were so toxic that often it got rid of the livestock as well as the ticks.
For farmers whose entire herd might consist of two milk cows, risking the loss of your cows in the dipping vat wasn't a pleasant thought. Many farmers, forced by state law to dip their cattle rebelled, formed vigilante groups and began blowing up the dipping vats. During the 19-teens and early twenties Oklahomans at various times were fighting the Texas Fever ticks, dipping vats, and those people blowing up the dipping vats. The dipping vats, in one way or another, did work and they did help to contain the of the disease carrying tick. One by one Oklahoma counties were taken off of the quarantine list enabling them to ship cattle out to the general market. The last remaining quarantined counties lie in the southern and southeast portions of the state, areas of great poverty. It was in this week of 1928 after some seventy years of warfare against the Texas Tick that the last quarantined county, McCurtain, was declared free of the fever and allowed to export cattle.
Battling the Texas Tick this week on the Almanac.
The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of Oklahoma's pubic radio and the Oklahoma State University Library.